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Sticky Notes Blog

November 4, 2014

Working for Willpower

Willpower is your inner force of motivation that keeps you focused and making good decisions, but it often feels like there is never enough. The good news is that willpower is like a muscle-it can get tired with use but with the right fuel and training it gets bigger and stronger.  If you find it hard to stay on task there are some tips to increase your store of willpower and use it more effectively in the workplace.


You probably have noticed that it’s harder to focus when you aren’t well rested, and this is just as true whether you miss one hour of sleep or four. If your mind is wandering more than usual make sure you are getting the recommended 7-9 full hours of sleep and see what a difference it makes!


Most people have a time of the day when they feel more energized and alert, and this is the key window for difficult tasks that require the most willpower. This is usually the morning, before you are stressed out by incoming emails and the noises of a busy office, but some people naturally have more focus at night. Identify your optimal energy hour and schedule your most demanding projects for that time.


Meditation by focusing on one’s breathing for a few minutes at a time is a highly recommended method of strengthening willpower. Just close your eyes and try to clear your mind by continuing to bring your focus back to your sensations of breathing no matter how often your mind wanders. You might not notice a difference at first, but keep it up and you will enjoy a greater awareness of your thoughts that can keep you from getting distracted.


Low blood sugar is one culprit of waning willpower that is easy to fix- just have a snack. Choose healthy snacks with complex sugars over processed foods that will give you energy in the short term and have you crashing later.


If you find yourself making the same willpower mistakes over and over you can use this information to change your behavior by planning ahead physically and emotionally.  Don’t trust that your future self will be any more motivated than your current self and help yourself now- putting things off until tomorrow is only a way to get behind. If your cluttered files are a hurdle in getting your work started, for example, you are less likely to get as much done than if you had taken time to organize everything first.


It’s easy to forget what your goals are if they aren’t in front of you. Take notes on your efforts, make to-do lists, or post reminding notes around your work space to make sure your higher priorities are always in view.  Reward yourself moderately for the goals that you have already achieved and avoid punishing yourself for failing. Staying positive and focused on the bigger picture are the keys to overcoming your unwanted fleeting desires.

Do you have your own techniques for increasing willpower and getting more done at work? Post them in the comments below!